Question: "What happened on the Mount of Olives?"
Answer: Jesus made many visits to the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37). In fact, it was “usual” for Him to go there when in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Luke 22:39). The Bible records two visits to the Mount of Olives, both in the last week of Jesus’ life, in which something of significance happened. The first visit was to deliver what has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24:1—25:46. Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1–37 and Luke 21:5–36. The second visit was on the night He was betrayed. That evening began with the Last Supper and ended in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.
The content of the Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ response to His disciples’ question “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). The content of what Jesus taught in Matthew 24–25 primarily refers to the future tribulation period and the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. The Discourse includes parables about those who wait for the Master’s coming—the wise and faithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51), the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and the good servant who uses his “talents” (money) wisely as he waits for the Master’s return (Matthew 25:14-30).
Jesus’ second visit to the Mount of Olives followed His last Passover meal with His disciples, in which He established the New Covenant and then revealed Judas as the one who would betray His master (John 13:1-30). At the conclusion of the meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). After the meal, He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, literally “oil-press,” located on a slope of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. There Jesus prayed in agony as He contemplated the day to come. So overcome by the horror of what He was to experience in the crucifixion the following day that God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43).
After this, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, arrived with a “multitude” of soldiers, high priests, Pharisees, and servants to arrest Jesus. Judas identified Him by the prearranged signal of a kiss which he gave to Jesus. Trying to protect Jesus, Peter took a sword and attacked a man named Malthus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the man’s ear, displaying the miraculous power of God. Nevertheless, they arrested Him and took Him to Pontius Pilate, while the disciples scattered in fear for their lives.
The Mount of Olives is also mentioned in the Book of Zechariah. In a prophecy related to the end times, the Prophet Zechariah declared, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south" (Zechariah 14:4). This prophecy, related to the triumphant coming of the Messiah, connects to both of the above Mount of Olives passages. It connects with the Olivet Discourse in that both passages refer to the end times. It connects with the Garden of Gethsemane in that the very location where Jesus was betrayed and rejected will be the same location where Jesus returns triumphantly.
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